Week Two Update 2018

Last Tuesday, January 16th, marked the second week of this year’s legislative session. My colleagues and I spent the majority of the week with one of our most pressing responsibilities—working on the budget. The General Assembly is required to pass a balanced budget every year, and we do that by hearing from committees, state agency heads, and reviewing Governor Deal’s recommendations. The House and Senate Appropriations committee met throughout the week for joint budget hearings.

Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget (FY 2019 budget) proposal is the largest to date in Georgia’s history! Our state has seen tremendous economic growth over the past few years, and this proposal reflects that. Georgia’s economic success paves the way for even greater improvements in education, transportation, healthcare, and other areas that affect all citizens.

Each year that we are able to maintain our title of the “No. 1 State in which to do Business” means more possibilities for growth in countless areas. The Governor highlighted the fact that Atlanta is a contender to host Amazon’s second headquarters. Our state economy has been consistently improving, so this does not surprise me!

Gov Deal gave his budget recommendations for several areas that I will highlight below.

TRASPORTATION

The FY 2019 budget recommendations appropriates a great deal to our state’s infrastructure to ensure that it grows with our population and transportation needs.

  • $1.9 billion to maintain and enhance our transportation infrastructure
  • $100 million for bridge repair and replacement
  • $25 million allocated from the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget (AFY 2018 budget) to expand runways at 11 airports.

 

EDUCATION

Gov. Deal has also allocated a great deal of funds to our state’s education system. Investing in our state’s future leaders is vital to our state’s continued success. The AFY 2018 budget includes:

  • $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
  • Fund allocation recommendations for the FY 2019 budget include:
    $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts
  • $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training for Georgia teachers.
  • $1.8 million for the REACH Georgia Scholarship program.
  • $361.7 million for our state’s Teachers Retirement System

 

HEALTHCARE

Georgia has invested nearly $240 million in behavioral health since 2011. Because of this, we have see a notable decline in the number of citizens committed into our behavioral health hospitals. We want to see even more improvements in healthcare in the years to come. Gov. Deal’s healthcare recommendations include:

  • $15 million to continue to fund Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to provide supportive housing for Georgians in need.
  • $ 3.5 million from the AFY 2018 budget and $7 million from the FY 2019 budget towards the Children’s Autism Initiative.
  • $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention & treatment.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

In my last blog post, I highlighted the success of accountability courts. These court systems provide alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. The FY 2019 budget includes allocations for $5 million towards accountability courts, so we can continue establishing and operating them throughout our state. This will help low-level offenders get the assistance they need to get back on track and keep them out of the prison system.
Programs & Initiatives

Gov. Deal lastly gave his budget recommendations for certain programs and initiatives to meet the needs of Georgia citizens’ overall well-being. This included:

  • $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization
  • $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates
  • $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates
  • $256 million for Medicaid expense growth and to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.

The General Assembly heard more budget proposals from Gov. Deal that I will update you on as session continues. The House Appropriations subcommittees will hear and review even more proposals this week. Leaders of these subcommittees will eventually pass along their respective portion of the budget to their committees before the draft goes before the full House Appropriations Committee. This committee is tasked with reviewing and passing balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.

MORE SESSION UPDATES – HOUSE BILL 159

Last week, the Senate passed their version of HB 159. This bill passed unanimously in last year’s session and would modernize our state’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly 30 years. The House will review the Senate’s amendments the this bill, and we hope to get this bill signed into law very soon!

As you read this, my colleagues and I are working towards creating a balanced budget for our state and passing legislation that will support our state’s continued growth. Return next week to learn about the third week of the 2018 legislative session!

You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Session Has Begun – Week One Update 2018

On January 8th, the House joined together for the first week of the 2018 legislative session. This is an exciting and important time for my colleagues and I. We are currently hard at work on passing legislation that will improve the lives of Georgia citizens. The first order of business was for Governor Nathan Deal to deliver his final annual State of the State address.

After four decades of service to the state of Georgia, Governor Deal will retire. We were all encouraged by his speech which covered his hopes for the future and how far Georgia has come. Since Gov. Deal has been in office, Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4% to 4.3%, over 675,000 private sector jobs have been created, and Georgia has been named the number 1 state to do business with for the last 5 years.

I’m sure you have noticed the increase in GA film production over the past few years. Gov. Deal touched on this as well. There are now over 200 new companies located in the state of Georgia in support of our growing film industry. An impressive 92,000 jobs are tied to this industry! In addition to this, roughly 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy. These individuals will eventually go on to support and further grow the industry. I’m excited to see how far our state goes in this area.

Gov. Deal touched on our improvements in education as well. Since he took office, state spending on education has seen a $3.6 billion increase which brings us to $14 billion in state education expenditures. You may recall the allocation of funds to create the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. This center opened in June 2017 to give educators the skills they need to improve literacy in our schools. Gov. Deal highlighted the center’s namesake First lady Sandra Deal for her terrific work as an educator.

My colleagues and I were also reminded of how far the HOPE Scholarship has come. When Gov. Deal took office back in 2011, the HOPE Scholarship and other grant programs were nearing bankruptcy. In response to this, Gov. Deal created reforms that kept these programs afloat along with the HOPE Career Grant program. This program covers the cost of technical school tuition for students in one of the 17 strategic industry, high-demand fields. 99.2% of these students have found employment!

The state of Georgia has also seen great strides in criminal justice reform initiatives. For example, our state’s accountability courts have been successful to say the least. These courts provide sentencing alternatives for non-violent offenders and have significantly decreased the prison population. Today, there are 149 reform programs and all of Georgia’s judicial circuits manage at least one kind of accountability court.

Finally, Gov. Deal spoke on his budget recommendations. For the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget he proposed:

  • $102 million for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $10.7 million for growth in Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program
  • $43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid
  • $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody
  • $2.4 million for autism services for children under the age of 21
  • $17.6 million for Forestland Protection Act grants
  • $10 million for beach nourishment projects
  • $25.2 million for airport runway extension projects

For the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Gov. Deal proposed:

  • $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System
  • $127 million for K-12 education
  • $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems
  • $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases
  • $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health
  • $5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts
  • $31 million for transportation
  • $100 million to repair roads and bridges

 

These recommendations will guide the General Assembly’s decisions as we do our best to create a balanced budget.You will learn more about what will be included in the budgets as session continues.

While most of this first week of session was spent getting to work on legislative decisions, we took time to celebrate College Football Playoff National Championship Day. On the first day of session, the House adopted House Resolution 867 which recognizes Dan Corso, president of Atlanta Sports Council, and commends the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing the championship game. While we were not victorious, hosting the National Championship was a first for Georgia and that is something to be proud of!

We are currently in our second week of session working towards creating important, impactful legislation for the state of Georgia. Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on the 2018 legislative session.

You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here.

Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Events in Henry County

New Year’s Eve Events Happening Near You
photo: property of Rockdale Newton Citizen

If you are looking for some family-friendly New Year’s Eve options, there are several events planned throughout Georgia. The McDonough Geranium Drop is a local favorite. Surrounding businesses get involved by offering specials, and parking & admission is free of charge. Go enjoy the live music and dancing on December 31 at 8 pm! For more ideas on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Georgia, read this article: New Year’s Eve celebrations planned throughout the state

Congratulations, Henry County Schools!
Henry Co Schools Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis, Ph.D | photo: property of South Metro Neighbor

Henry County Schools is the 2017 Henry Neighbor’s newsmaker of the year! This news source covered several positive updates about the Henry County School district throughout the year. Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis, Ph.D., stated that “A universal thread connects consumers to information about one of society’s highest priorities, . . . There isn’t one person who doesn’t care about the quality that education brings.” I am certain that we will see even more good news from Henry County Schools in 2018. To read more this story, visit this article: Henry County Schools a top topic throughout 2017

I Want To Hear Your Feedback.

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the mind’s of District 109 citizens.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Holidays: How to spend the season

The holiday season is upon us and there are plenty of ways to celebrate in District 109. Here are a few festive events for you and your family to enjoy!

Conyers – The Last Living Christmas Tree
photo: property of Rockdale Newton Citizen

This year is the last change you’ll get to see The Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church of Conyers. After 17 years of performing, they’ve decided to put on one last grand show. There will be over 100 singers, an orchestra, and the church will be beautifully decorated. Bring your family and friends on Dec. 8th, 9th, and 10th for the show. More info here: The Last Living Christmas Tree

McDonough- Fill the Bus Campaign
photo: property of Henry Herald

The Fill the Bus campaign is an annual effort to make Christmas special for hundreds of children in Henry County. Every year, people fill the bus with toys which eventually go to the Community Cares Toy Shop where families in need will be able to select gifts. The bus will make several stops throughout Henry County until Dec. 5. Find out how you can help here:
Henry collects donations for Christmas toy shop with ‘Fill the Bus’ campaign

Henry County – Holiday Events
Henry Herald Staff Photo: Brian Hadden

December’s Calendar is full of family-friendly events including Christmas parades, festivals, and opportunities for children to meet Santa. You can read more details on these upcoming events here: Henry Celebrates the Holidays with December Events

I Want To Hear Your Feedback.

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voter.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

I participated in Take Your Legislator To Work Day.

Here I am photographed with Hannah ( to my left) and her co-workers.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! I was honored to be asked to participate in Take Your Legislator To Work Day. The program is led by APSE: The Association of People Supporting Employment First. This organization created the program to raise awareness of the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities, and to show that employment should be the preferred outcome of publicly funded services for people with disabilities. I got the pleasure of going to work with Hannah Hibben at the Great American Cookie Co, located within the Locust Grove Tanger Outlets. She gave me a tour, I talked with her co-workers, and I learned about Hannah’s experience in the workplace. Click the following link to learn more about this terrific program: Take Your Legislator to Work Day
I Want To Hear Your Feedback.
With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voters.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

Recovering from Hurricane Irma and Improvements in Education.

Hurricane Irma: Citizens and States come together

I hope everyone in District 109 is doing well and recovering from Hurricane Irma. It was more than a trying time for us, and most of all for the evacuees in search of refuge in our state. It was encouraging to see our state working together in that time of crisis.

I applaud the deputies, city employees, power linemen, hospital workers, helpful citizens, and everyone else who was instrumental in responding to the storm and its victims. Read this update from Sheriff Eric Levett about Rockdale’s experience with Hurricane Irma: Rockdale comes together to weather the storm

McDonough’s Union Grove HS beats national average on ACT

I was proud to learn that the Henry County Schools district is reaching new academic heights. We’ve scored 19.8 in the GA district category, 21.4 in the state, and 21 in the U.S. State Superintendent Richard Woods attributes this success to reducing the number of state-mandated tests and, of course, to the dedication of students and educators. To learn more about Henry County’s academic success, read this article: McDonough’s Union Grove HS beats national average on ACT

I Want To Hear Your Feedback.

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voter.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

House Resolution 798 and The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 30, 2017, the House passed House Resolution 798. The purpose of this resolution is to create a committee tasked with studying the conditions, needs, and issues surrounding Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program in order to determine its effectiveness. I serve as chairperson of this committee.

“What is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program?”

The LIHTC program was established to incentivize and encourage developers and investors to create affordable housing. Developers receive federal income tax credits under this program and sell the rights to the credits to investors.

The committee and I want to ensure that this program is running efficiently. We will look into how many housing units are actually being created, how cost effective the housing projects are, how the program is making use of tax payers resources, etc. The LIHTC program has a large budget, so the committee wants to make sure funds are being used in the best possible way.

I Want To Hear Your Feedback! 

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voter.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

District 109 Updates That Concern You

 

Photo Credit: Henry Herald Staff Member- Asia Ashley

McDonough Opens Former Courthouse For Community Input-

McDonough city officials are asking for your input on how to use the former Municipal Court building located on Macon Street. Some have suggested that it be turned into a museum or even some kind of community facility. This is an opportunity for you to get involved in improving the community and learn about fellow citizens’ concerns.

What do you think this building should be used for? If you have any ideas on how to turn this property into something constructive for the community, email your suggestions to elyles@mcdonoughga.org.

Read more about this story here.

New Performing Arts Center Coming To Stockbridge-

A new performing arts center is in the works for Henry County. It will be located adjacent to Fairview Elementary School in Stockbridge. This new facility will ease parking issues at Fairview Elementary and will be a wonderful resource for teachers and students.

Read more about this new facility here.

The Race For The Fallen Charity Event-

The Race For The Fallen 5k & 1 mile returns to McDonough on September 9th. Proceeds from this race will go to families of fallen law enforcement officers. Sadly, life does not slow down after losing a loved one. These family members need our help and encouragement.

This race is a fun way to help the people in your community! All ages are welcome to come out to the Salem Baptist Church Recreation Complex for this event.

For more info & registration visit the race website.

Do you have questions about what I’m doing to advance District 109? Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, concerns, or thoughts on happenings in Henry County! I am proud to serve as your representative and look forward to hearing from you.

Office Number: 404.656.0254

 

Recent Education Bills and How They Will Affect You.

If you are a parent or a concerned citizen, I’m sure you are always thinking about growth in the education system. It is vital that our state’s young population get all of the education opportunities needed to grow into productive adults.

In the 2017-2018 Legislative Session, my colleagues and I voted several bills into law that will help our young Georgia citizens to make even bigger strides. Read some highlights from this year’s session below.

House Bill 338- Additional help for Schools

House Bill 338 will go into effect on July 1st, 2017 in order to improve Georgia’s lowest performing public schools. This bill will:

-create an alternative support and assistance system that falls under the State Board of Education’s intervention power in the form of a turnaround school. This turnaround school will create a new level of governance to supervise schools that choose this alternative.

-allow the State Board of Education to remove local boards of education, to create a Joint Study Committee on the establishment of a State Accreditation Process, and to create a Joint Study Committee on the establishment of a leadership academy designed to help teachers and principals grow.

Learn more about this bill here.

House Bill 331- The Caregiver Educational Consent Act

The purpose of HB 331 is to allow a kinship caregiver to give legal consent for educational services, medical services related to academic enrollment, and curricular & extracurricular participation. This bill will create the Kinship Caregiver’s Affidavit which is a form that will be valid for one year and designates the caregiver as a school’s point of contact. This bill will not affect the rights of the child’s parents or legal guardian, but would make life much easier for kinship caregivers and the children they look after. HB 331 goes into effect on March 3, 2017.

Learn more about this bill here.

House Bill 237- Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation

House Bill 237 establishes the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation which allows for individuals, corporations, and communities to financially assist our state’s low-performing schools. This bill will make it possible for taxpayers to give private donations, so the fund can give grants to schools in need. HB 237 will go into effect on April 27, 2017.

Learn more about this bill here.

Thank you for reading. If you have any further questions about education in our state or about what I am doing to advance District 109, feel free to reach out to me!

Office: 404-656-0254

2017 McDonough Geranium Festival

The 40th Annual Geranium Festival is this Saturday, May 20th—9am to 5pm. This free street festival has been a McDonough citizen favorite for many years now, and you should plan to check it out.

Have you never been? You can expect local artisans, activities for kids, festival food, and a fun day with family and friends on the McDonough Square.

Parking is also free for this event! You can park at the Henry County High School and take a shuttle to the Square. You also have the option to park in  the Judicial Center Parking Deck and walk a short distance to the festival.

Don’t forget to visit local business in the square for lunch and additional shopping! This festival is a fun way to support McDonough business and learn about the community’s organizations, churches, non-profits, and more. For more details on the festival, visit the official Geranium Festival website  or their Facebook page. I hope you enjoy welcoming warm weather and outdoor fun this Saturday!